SFI Is Helping Students and Teachers Get Firsthand Experience in the Boreal Forest
The Forestry Connects Program
Why this project matters
Ontario’s population is 86% urban, according to Statistics Canada. This means Ontario’s vast forests are outside the daily experiences of most Ontarians. SFI’s support for Forestry Connects, will help connect about 100 high school students and teachers to the boreal forest and give them real-life experience in responsible forest management.
Established in 2010, the Forestry Connects program, led by Forests Ontario, gives Ontario high school students a first-hand look at what it’s like to work in forestry. More than 350 students and teachers have participated in the program to go into Ontario’s forests to meet with foresters, operators, Indigenous people, and biologists to learn about growing and responsibly managing Ontario’s forests.
From visits to local mills and harvesting operations to lessons on local wildlife and the identification of different trees, the program demonstrates the importance of forests to local communities, and the complexity and benefits of active forest management and planning. By the end of the program, students have a better understanding of the integral role forests play in cleaning our air and water, regulating Ontario’s climate, and creating products we rely on every day, as well as inspiring potential careers in sustainable forest management.
Why is SFI involved?
SFI values this project because it provides students with firsthand experience that exposes them to real life experience in responsible forestry and connects them with resource professionals who may inspire them to pursue careers in forestry.
One of SFI’s priorities is to connect youth to forests through education. We look for ways to instill a lifelong appreciation for the value forests represent for biodiversity, the wider environment, sustainable communities, responsibly sourced forest products and for our shared quality of life. The educational focus of this project also supports SFI’s focus on encouraging the next generation of future forest leaders.
Our work with Girl Guides of Canada, Scouts Canada, Boy Scouts of America, and other youth organizations and school programs like Earth Rangers and Project Learning Tree helps build healthy kids. It also engages youth in conservation activities and outdoor education.
Our kids’ contact with nature keeps shrinking. Today’s emphasis on screen time and indoor play is also linked to psychological and physical effects like obesity, loneliness, depression and attention problems. Getting kids into forests and helping them learn about sustainability is good for forests and good for kids.
How the project builds SFI community engagement
This grant supports SFI’s community engagement efforts in two primary ways — it connects youth to forests and it serves to train and educate future forestry professionals. The Central Canada SFI Implementation Committee, which includes SFI Program Participants Domtar, EACOM, Resolute Forest Products and Weyerhauser, all with lands certified to SFI, is working with Forestry Connects to engage with schools in multiple communities. This is opening doors to students in Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Ignace, Sioux Narrows, Winnipeg, Whitemouth and Falcon Lake.
Schools will participate in a one-to-two-day program taking them into the field to see active harvesting, learn hands on forestry skills like tree tagging and identification, and see finished wood products in order to understand the process from harvesting to product. Forests Ontario and their partners will develop a series of learning resources focused on forest management in Northern Ontario that will be freely accessible to teachers for use in the classroom. Resources will make knowledge of forest management accessible beyond Forestry Connects participants.
This partnership includes educators, conservationists, researchers, SFI Program Participants and municipal officials.
- Project lead: Forests Ontario
- Sustainable Forestry Initiative
- Canadian Institute of Forestry
- Central Canada SFI Implementation Committee (consisting of SFI Program Participants)
- City of Kenora
- Domtar (SFI Program Participant)
- EACOM (SFI Program Participant)
- Resolute Forest Products (SFI Program Participant)
- Weyerhauser (SFI Program Participant)
- Manitoba Forestry Association
- Read an op-ed about how Earth Rangers, an SFI-grantee, empowers children on environmental issues giving them opportunities to take action and to make a difference.
- A marten monitoring project, supported by SFI, is connecting youth in the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi to the forest by bringing them on the trap line to monitor wildlife in an educational way, using scientific and traditional knowledge.
- SFI supports Project Learning Tree an award-winning environmental education program designed for teachers and other educators, parents and community leaders working with youth from preschool through grade 12.
- The Nature Conservancy is teaming up with SFI to help at-risk youth prepare for jobs as forest technicians, while restoring conservation values in native forests.
- Forests Ontario